The situation of unknown paternity in abortion-determined women is not unusual. I have seen women many times who want an abortion dependent on who the father is. Many times, they have had an affair and want to be sure the baby is their husband’s child. Sometimes, there are two boyfriends. One is the preferred boyfriend and they want to be assured he is the father if they choose life. Or other times, one potential father is urging abortion while the other is offering to help … as long as it is his baby.
Sidewalk counselors need to be aware of the likelihood of facing this situation, as well as how to best handle it in a God-honoring way.
First: Clearly Determine the Situation
As in all issues we face on the sidewalk, we need to be as clear as possible on the reasons for abortion and the obstacles the mother is facing. Ask a lot of questions to discern the full picture. These types of situations are often very messy, and the woman may be hesitant to disclose the entire story. Being compassionate, non-condemning and kind can help her to trust you enough to eventually share the story.
Hesitation, Inconsistency Often Reveal Hidden Portions of the Story
Whenever a woman hedges on questions I ask, or give conflicting answers, I suspect she is hiding something she is ashamed of or unwilling to share. I keep asking questions, hoping she will give me enough information to figure out the true story. Alternately, she sometimes finds herself telling so many lies that she finally fesses up to the reality of her situation.
Should We Encourage Determining Paternity?
We had a call from a sidewalk counselor recently asking if we should offer to pay for paternity testing. I fully understand the eagerness to help the woman with everything she is asking. We want to do everything possible to insure she doesn’t kill the baby; however, I would urge counselors to NEVER offer to pay for any kind of paternity testing.
Sometimes ultrasounds do help the women determine paternity if they know when they were intimate with which potential father. The ultrasound is critical NOT for that reason, but so the mother can see and bond to her baby. Most women who see their child on an ultrasound do choose life.
Baby’s Value Determined by Being Created in God’s Image
The focus of sidewalk counseling in this situation (as in all situations) is to magnify and reaffirm the humanity of the baby. His or her worth is not based on who the father is, or any circumstance leading to conception. The baby’s worth is determined by the fact that he or she is human, made in God’s holy image. NOTHING detracts from his or her intrinsic value.
The mother who is determined to abort based on who the father is has lost all sense of the inherent worth of her precious baby. We must always return to this truth. If I know the situation regarding questions of paternity prior to an ultrasound, I will spend some time BEFORE she sees the baby counseling on the baby’s value NO MATTER WHAT. I want her to look at the child with eyes not fixated on gestational age so the proper daddy is apparent, but on the precious unique little life she carries in her womb.
The Gospel is Critical
Of course, the Gospel is essential in all situations we face. If we can reiterate what God says about the sanctity of all human life, we can bring the conviction of the Holy Spirit into the messy situation. It is important to understand that these situations are very difficult. It is not easy to persuade a mother not to abort a child of a past boyfriend, or of a man she is with who is insisting he will not raise another man’s child.
I do not want to minimize how big an uphill battle the counselor faces. Nonetheless, we must stick to the biblical support for life as well as the humanity of the baby as our main focus. We must not do anything that supports the woman’s contention that the baby’s worth is negotiable.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26)